Black-tailed Godwits at Coombe Hill this month

Black-tailed Godwit is a regular spring passage migrant at Coombe Hill, but the numbers this year are a good deal higher than usual.  Comparable records in recent years are 25 from 6 to 8 April 2005, 14 on 7 April 2006, 25-45 in the second half of March 2007; in other years since 2001 numbers recorded in the last ten days of March or the first ten days of April have been in single figures.  The Icelandic breeding popuation of Black-tailed Godwit winters in western Europe (particularly in UK and Ireland) and passes through western England in March/April en route to its Icelandic breeding grounds.

On Sunday 7 April at 18h00, five birds were seen, all but one very red (males in summer plumage); five were seen during the morning of Monday 8 April, and on the morning of Tuesday 9 April; none were seen on the evening of Wednesday 10 April, and the five are presumed to have left – though they could have been part of the larger flocks seen later in the week.  The five were present at the end of the long period of cold easterly weather, with strong winds, which only began to give way to milder weather with south-westerly Atlantic fronts on 10 April.

The milder weather saw the arrival of much higher numbers, no doubt previously held back by the adverse conditions; other migrant waders showed the same tendency.   On Friday 12 April, 51 godwits flew in at about midday.  On the morning of Saturday 13 April 66 were counted between 06h30 and 08h30, when they flew off to the west; they included a colour-ringed bird, originally ringed in Iceland (details of life history awaited).  This flock was not found later that morning, but a flock of 110 (including the colour-ringed bird) were present from about 10h00 until 13h00 on Sunday 14 April; that evening from 18h00 until dusk, only three birds were left.  This group was seen to fly off to the west several times, but returned; perhaps they went to another wet spot at Cobney Meadows; the presence of the colour-ringed bird suggests that the same birds were involved each time.  There was movement of this species elsewhere in the county (38 at Walmore, about a hundred in flight over Frampton on 13 April).

On the next morning, Monday 15 April, 95 were once again present at 10h30; they flew off at about 11h00; the colour-ringed bird was not seen in this flock (though some were in deep water, and it could have been overlooked); so this may have been some of those previously recorded, or possibly new arrivals.    On Tuesday 16 April, none were found at Coombe Hill, but five were flushed from the flight pond at Cobney Meadows.

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